With something as unpredictable as the NCAA tournament, even bold predictions are quite the norm and don't shock many if they come to fruition.
In reality, nobody has any idea how the tournament will shape up over the course of the seemingly endless matchups. But half the fun is taking a deep dive into its participants and discovering potential shreds of evidence that point toward something bigger.
- Download the Printable Bracket
- Follow the Latest Bracket Updates Live
- Play the Free Bracket Challenge
Let's put on some investigator hats and search for bold results that fans can use to get an edge on the competition when it comes time to finalize those brackets.
Kansas Bows Out in the Round of 32
For reasons slightly hard to explain, Kansas is a sleeper pick by many. That's strange considering the Jayhawks are a No. 2 seed, but fine. Bill Self's team is a bit under the radar because of the injury to Joel Embiid, who the coach expects to have back sooner rather than later, via Kansas Basketball on Twitter:
For some, such as ESPN's Jay Bilas, this is enough to send the Jayhawks on their way to the Final Four.
Hold that thought—permanently.
Kansas does not need Embiid to move past No. 15 Eastern Kentucky in the South Region to start things off in the round of 64.
It certainly does in the round of 32 against what should be No. 7 New Mexico. Back in December, the Jayhawks got 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting from Embiid in an 80-63 win.
Even worse, the Lobos shot a horrific 18-of-54 and 2-of-14 mark from deep, percentages that certainly won't make a reappearance at a neutral venue—Embiid or not.
Wichita State Is the First No. 1 to Exit
Of all the No. 1 seeds to get a rough path to the Final Four, the new kid on the block certainly wasn't going to get a pass by the selection committee.
While Arizona has a favorable path in the West if it can get past one of Gonzaga or Oklahoma State in the round of 32, Florida and Virginia will remain largely untested until the Sweet 16.
It's impossible to say the same for the Shockers, a team mired in what is arguably the deepest region in recent memory.
Brad Johansen of CBS Sports put it best:
You do not want to be in Midwest Bracket: Duke Michigan Louisville Wichita State Kentucky #hello— Brad Johansen (@bradjohansen) March 16, 2014
ESPN weighed in with the staggering numbers:
The midwest region has 3 of last year's Final Four teams (Louisville, Michigan and Wichita State).— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) March 16, 2014
Round 3 is where things get crazy, as the Shockers have to move past one of either Kentucky or Kansas State. That's a recipe for disaster and a very bad time for Wichita State to encounter its first real threat of the year.
Nebraska Makes a Deep Run
The Cornhuskers may turn out to be the team nobody saw coming.
As Nicole Auerbach of USA Today points out, Tim Miles' team is going dancing for the first time since 1998:
Nebraska is in as an 11 seed -- first NCAA tournament since 1998 -- and will get No. 6 Baylor in round of 64.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 16, 2014
The Cornhuskers have been on a roll as of late, winning eight of their last 10 games—including upset victories over No. 9 Michigan State and No. 9 Wisconsin more recently in the Big Ten tournament.
Led by sophomore Terran Petteway (18.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game), the Cornhuskers combine a balanced offense with sound defense that flusters teams accustomed to scoring consistently.
No. 6 Baylor is first up for the Cornhuskers in the West bracket, which is a very winnable game if Nebraska keeps its current form. The same goes for an in-state clash with Creighton, a team that beat them earlier in the season 82-67 in a hostile environment behind 33 points from Doug McDermott.
After that, one can guess the likely opponent would be a rematch with No. 2 Wisconsin, a team the Cornhuskers have already shown they can beat. It's difficult to find a better sleeper than Nebraska.